The bones, ligaments, and muscles that compose your neck all work together to support your head and allow for full range of motion. If you develop any abnormalities or inflammation in any of these intricate members of the neck, it can result in stiffness or pain.
It is common to experience neck pain on occasion as a result of poor posture, overuse. Less common contributing factors include injury from a fall, some sports, or whiplash. Usually, neck pain will resolve itself within a few days and is not an indicator of anything serious. However, if your pain persists for more than a week or you are experiencing other symptoms, medical attention is recommended.
Neck pain can be caused by a variety of factors. Depending on the source and the severity of the pain, the seriousness of your condition can also vary. Below are five of the most common causes of neck pain:
Muscle Tension or Strain
Muscle tension and strain are the kinds of problems that can arise just by doing regular, everyday activities, such as working at a desk for an extended period of time, sleeping in a bad position, having poor posture, or jerking your neck accidentally during physical activity. These kinds of problems are usually able to resolve themselves and can be treated at home with ice, heat, or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Because the neck is considered vulnerable to harsh impacts, it is more likely to be injured in situations in which the neck is forced to move outside of its normal range. These events include car accidents, falls, and sports. When the head is suddenly jerked, a common condition called “whiplash” can occur. If you injure yourself in a situation like this, it is important to be examined by a medical professional, since dislocation or fracturing of the neck can result in damage to the spinal cord.
Diseases or Other Conditions
There are several medical conditions that can cause pain in the neck. For example, arthritis causes swelling and pain in the joints and can affect the neck. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes weakness in the bones, which can result in small fractures in the bones of the neck. Fibromyalgia causes muscle pain throughout the entire body, including the neck area. Neck pain is one of the symptoms of a heart attack. Meningitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, which causes a stiff neck, along with severe headache and fever.
As you get older, you have increased risk for degeneration of the cervical disks in the neck, which can add stress and pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. This condition is called a herniated cervical disk, and is also commonly known as a slipped or ruptured disk.
While rare, neck pain can be caused by a structural or functional birth defect, meaning that it is a unique condition that is present from the day you are born.
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